Plaza Italia is the sprawling urban area dotted with historical statues where several major streets and locations meet. It is located above Metro Baquedano, at the point where the name of the city’s major thoroughfare or alameda changes from Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins to Avenida Providencia. The narrow parks Bustamante and Forestal both begin here, as do the major streets Pio Nono and Vicuña MacKenna. Tens of thousands of people commute through Plaza Italia daily, making it unofficially the central hub of Santiago.
Plaza Italia is where locals gather for celebrations, impromptu and expected, as well as for protests. Major athletic wins are often followed by walks to Plaza Italia, and marches for students’ and other workers’ rights begin at Plaza Italia on a very regular basis. It is a great place to connect and participate in the community. It is surrounded by restaurants, bars, hotels, offices, and other attractions that keep foot traffic high throughout the day.
It is also known as a clear marker of socioeconomic class differences in Santiago. Economic Inequality is widely viewed as an issue that Chile has not fully resolved as it has prospered. Providencia and the other wealthy municipalities of Santiago lie directly to the East of Plaza Italia, and Santiago Centro and other more crowded, and sometimes impoverished, communities lie largely to the West. To be clear, Plaza Italia is centrally located and numerous sprawling suburbs lie to the North and South as well. Because the administration of individual municipalities govern so much of day-to-day life in Santiago, the standard of living is impacted strongly by the neighborhood in which individuals live.
A positive, if at times chaotic, result of Plaza Italia’s location is that it encourages mixing and communicating within the various strata of Santiago’s culture. The feeling in the air during gatherings at Plaza Italia is rarely one in which the population is divided amongst itself- except occasionally when there is police trying to maintain order in the groups of civilians. The Bellavista neighborhood and hill (cerro) San Cristobal are popular attractions and nightlife destinations directly to the North of Plaza Italia, keeping the area busy and occupied at all hours of the day. Bike paths run through it in several directions. Plaza de Armas in Central Santiago may be the historical center of the city, but today and in practice, that center is undoubtedly Plaza Italia, where a variety of neighborhoods and cultures collide.